At the Victoriaville International Festival of Contemporary Music, the beautiful risk of Scott Thomson

The 40e Victoriaville International Festival of Current Music, FIMAV, opens Tuesday under the sign of renewal — or, at the very least, the beginning of renewal. Having come to relieve co-founder Michel Levasseur of his duties as general and artistic director, Montrealer of Toronto origin Scott Thomson will experience his first FIMAV in his new role, after having attended the event for a long time as a festival-goer and musician.

Scott Thomson first visited “Victo” to perform there. A trained trombonist and composer, he knows the Quebec music scene intimately, and has played with Joane Hétu’s Ensemble SuperMusique and the avant-jazz orchestra Ratchet Orchestra. His discography includes collaborations with singer Susanna Hood and composer and clarinetist Lori Freedman — their latest album, Amberappeared two years ago on the label Portuguese Clean Feed.

“But, deep down, I am first and foremost a music lover,” he confides. “If I had to choose between being a musician, an artistic director or a music lover, I would choose to listen to music. »

The bar is high for Scott Thomson, who is already used to it: before taking the reins of FIMAV, he took over in 2017 the position of artistic director, then general (two years later) of the Guelph Jazz Festival, founded in 1994 and “directly inspired by FIMAV”, he explains. “Like the one in Victoriaville, it is a festival which mainly presents avant-garde music, and outside a large urban center”, like Toronto or even Kitchener, closer and almost twice as populated.

“Before applying for the position, I thought about it and discussed it at length with those around me,” says Scott Thomson. “The list of people who could take over from Michel Levasseur is not very long: you need experience, not only in the role of artistic director, but also as general director and, in addition, you need to have the freedom to be able to spend a lot of time in Victoriaville,” he believes. If Levasseur withdrew while retaining management of the label Les Disques Victo, his partner and co-director, Joanne Vézina, still holds administrative positions in the festival offices, until his replacement is found.

The artistic director has already proven himself, managing to build a program for the 40e anniversary just seven months after taking office — a feat in the circumstances. Apart from the big event Basileus, presented Thursday at Carré 150, the entire program bears his signature. “This is, it seems to me, a proposal which is linked to the history and aesthetics of FIMAV, but which, at the same time, points a little towards new musical directions. »

Develop, have fun

The FIMAV faithful will read the poster for the 40e edition by recognizing the names of artists who are part of the great musical family.

American composer and guitarist Bill Orcutt, for example, a regular on the circuit, who will present (May 18, at the convention center), as a Canadian premiere, his latest album from his guitar quartet, simply titled Music for Four Guitars (2022). Five years after his last visit to Victoriaville, the FIMAV will once again welcome the legendary saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, still inventive at 83 years old (May 18, at Carré 150). “This time, Roscoe will play bass saxophone,” notes Scott Thomson. “In recent years, he has become very interested in the sounds of this instrument. »

Reinviting the friends of FIMAV, yes, but not out of nostalgia, underlines the new director: young or veterans, they must demonstrate curiosity, come up with new ideas. “What I look for as artistic director are the innovations that allow this musical scene to develop and have fun. I am open to all styles of music; however, FIMAV regulars will notice that there is less influence of metal in the programming. On the other hand, one of the new elements is the presence of hip-hop music,” says Scott Thomson, mentioning the concert that Sélébéyone will give on May 19 at 8 p.m. at Carré 150.

In its Canadian premiere, the Franco-Senegalese-American quintet imagined by saxophonist Steve Lehman brings together on stage MC Hprizm (admirers of the avant-rap group Antipop Consortium know him under the name High Priest) and rapper Gaston Bandimic, the first speaking in English, the second in Wolof. “Their synthesis of current music is very well designed,” says the musical director.


Scott Thomson’s other signature musical flavor will be electronic music. He cites as an example the performance that composer and DJ Kavain Wayne Space will offer on May 19, with the British duo XT (Paul Abbott on percussion; Seymour Wright on saxophone). Originally from Chicago and pioneer of the footwork/juke sound, Space is better known to electronic music fans under his stage name RP Boo, having released several albums published by the label British Planet Mu.

“Kavain plays [platines] CDJ as he does in his DJ performances, but he will improvise live with the saxophonist and the drummer, who also work their sounds with electronic instruments. To date, they have only offered five concerts, in addition to having released an album. YESYESPEAKERSYES, published last March. “All their performances were presented in the context of a DJ set by RP Boo; this concert at FIMAV will be their first in a room, for a seated audience. It will almost be like a scientific experiment: will it work? »

This is a first good risk for the new director.

The Victoriaville International Current Music Festival takes place from May 13 to 19.

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